It isn't often that McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) issues mid-quarter operating updates, but this was a special occasion. The fast-food giant said on Thursday that its growth trends have materially improved over the last few months, with notable gains coming in its core U.S. market.

Sales at existing locations grew 4.6% in the quarter that ended on Sept. 30, executives revealed. That result stacks up well against the chain's 8.7% decline in the prior quarter -- not to mention the double-digit slump it endured through several months of the COVID-19 pandemic. McDonald's noted improved results across its geographies, but sales are still falling slightly on a global basis.

"Our third-quarter performance demonstrates the underlying resilience of the McDonald's brand," CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a press release.

A man with a to-go food order.

Image source: Getty Images.

Investors will have to wait until the fast-food giant's full Q3 announcement in early November for details on its earnings and profitability. Executives said that report will also include key updates on McDonald's growth strategy through what could be a tough selling period for the wider restaurant industry in 2020.

But management announced a 3% dividend increase as part of Thursday's sales report, which implies a steady and perhaps strengthening financial position for the industry leader today.